The 2022 Yankee Season

Watching this team since July has been like watching a multicar accident in slow motion, with all the cars filled with kittens.

This team SUCKS.

There’s no other way to put it. They are well on their way to a historic collapse on the level of the ’64 Phillies, ’78 Red Sox & ’07 Mets. Everything went their way during the first half while they mostly bet up on weaker teams, and in the second half their bats (except for Judge) have gone dead & the pitching staff, ONCE AGAIN, is racked by injuries due to a training/conditioning staff that inexplicably never gets fired despite multiple injuries EVERY. YEAR.

This article sums up the problems & needed solutions nicely. And after reading it, I feel pretty confident that the only thing on this guy’s list that might happen is #3 “The Kids Must Contribute.” Maybe the Oswald-Oswaldo twins and Florial will step up, but it’s a big if. The article points out how Judge has been a “one-man army” for the Yankees. He’s flirting with breaking the Maris home run mark, which in my eyes makes him the single-season record holder since he’d be the only player to pass Maris without using PEDs of some sort. But it’s an empty thing, akin to Mike Trout or Ohtani piling up amazing individual stats while their team sits in the basement. Judge has been the only fun thing for me to watch this year, but anytime I hear he’s hit another homer, I don’t have to look at the line score to know it was a solo shot. No one else is getting on base, and when they do, there’s always someone in a slump ready in whatever random position in the line-up Boone or his math masters have programmed to step up and hit into a rally-killing double play.

It was fun for me in 1978 to be on the other end of this, watching the Yankees climb back from a 14 1/2 game deficit and win it all. I got to attend this beaut at Fenway about this time that year, Guidry’s 2 hit shutout & a very bad inning for Eckersley which brought the Yanks within 1 game. All 7 runs scored without a single home run. That’s what’s known as a hitting rally, where lots of guys in the lineup all get base hits, not just homers or strikeouts. If the defense tried some lopsided shift, they’d hit away from it or lay down a bunt for an easy cheap single, and that defensive strategy would be abandoned, go figure. Current hitting coaches might want to study up on it.

They’d beat the Sox the next day to tie the division. 14 1/2 game deficit erased.

It’s only a matter of time before the Rays do the same thing to this year’s Yankees, only they won’t be playing them at the time. Some other AL squad will help them out, it’s only a matter of who.

The Yankees built up enough of a lead to probably wind up in the wild card, but they have one-and-done written all over them.

And then what?

Fire Boone? Sure, why not. Then fill the spot with another middle-management cipher to carry out whatever the analytics say.

It’ll take more than that. Fire the hitting coach & hire Rod Carew or someone who thinks like him. Contact hitting, spray hitting, no more “launch angle” and “hit velocity” bullshit. Get guys on the bases, distract the pitchers & get them home. Bring in a manager who’d be a fiery clubhouse leader, command actual decision making authority & not take crap from anyone. Even though he seems to be loving retirement, I’d love to see CC Sabathia give that a shot.

Can we fire Cashman & Steinbrenner too? Can we bring back Gene Michael and Bob Watson who built the 90s dynasty when they had a free hand?

Can I win the powerball right after my torrid love affair with the sudden incarnation of 25 year old Ava Gardner who just showed up at my door with a bottle of bourbon & two glasses?

Probably not. I won’t get ANY of those things. And Ava’s gotten a little surly after that bourbon and threw the empty bottle at me. I think she’s going back to Frank.

Nothing to look forward to in the remaining games.

Oh WAIT – football is back!

Oh WAIT – Nothing to look forward to with the Patriots this year either. At least I expect them to suck, especially after watching them in pre-season. I guess I’ll enjoy Tom Brady’s last hurrah, although he’ll probably play until he’s in his 70s.

Gotta get another cat. They never disappoint you.

Divine Intervention Is Needed To Help My Yankees

Live look at the Yankees, post all-star break

What happened?

WHAT HAPPENED???

It’s tough to figure out how a team that was on pace to set records for wins could fall apart as badly as the Yankees have in the past month. Back in June, they were looking like they’d win over 110 games. In the past month, they’ve lost series after series, blown leads, or simply gotten pounded.

Every game, something else goes wrong – if they get a solid start out of Cole or Taillon, the bullpen promptly comes in & gives it away. If they get solid pitching throughout, they kill every hitting rally with double plays and lose 2-0.

They were well on their way to blowing yet another game last night against Tampa after FINALLY coming back to tie things up, followed by Chapman walking the bases loaded in the 10th before giving up a bases-clearing double, followed by getting saved by Donaldson’s walk-off grand slam… you’d think that might change the momentum?

Nope. Tonight against the Jays, Mantas gave up a 5 spot in the 2nd inning and you could feel the soul of the team just DIE once again.

And why? Was the first half an easier schedule? Could only a couple of key injuries like Michael King or Giancarlo Stanton going out have this much of an effect? Dunno, but if this continues this will be a monumental, historic season collapse that will be judged alongside teams like the ’64 Phillies, ’78 Red Sox or thd ’07 Mets. I can’t blame Boone as much as I’ve never been a big fan of him as manager – he’s only punching checkmarks in the spreadsheets the analytics clowns give him.

They’re the ones who need to go.

Adding Benintendi was a good move – a spray hitter in the LeMehieu mode who isn’t another homerun or strikeout hitter, the kind the sport keeps pumping out – hitters so locked in to specific mechanics that they supposedly can’t adjust against defensive shifts. So – coach hitters to be better? NO! Outlaw the shift!

Someone tar & feather Manfred.

Make Rod Carew baseball commissioner. Read this WSJ article where Carew accurately points out the problems with today’s hitters. When will baseball listen to him?

Probably about the time the Yankees turn things around.

BAH

Always Judge A Book By Its Cover

I made a new cover for the first entry in my Professor Wagstaff mystery series. I got sick of the old one, it seemed a bit too generic. Not that I’m some sort of genius in graphic design by any means, but not too bad for a concoction of royalty-free images, eh?

You realize that this makes all copies with the original cover WORTH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Click on the “Books I’ve Written” tab up top for more. I need the money.

How BOUT Them Yankees

So today a bunch of people evidently found this old post by searching my favorite catch phrase to discuss my team. 2018 was the year the Yanks truly emerged before losing in the post season both legitimately and then to the sign-stealing Altuve buzzer bullshit.

But THIS year looks real real good so far – they’re off to their best start since those late 90s dynasty years, and they’re beating everyone, not just the below-500 and mediocre teams, to put together the current best record in baseball. And mostly everyone is contributing – although the anemic bats of Gallo & Hicks are a standout and much of the lineup still suffers from over dependence on the long ball. There are still way too many solo home runs that wind up being meaningless. Nice to see Gleyber and LeMeheiu hitting better, Rizzo and Carpenter doing well, and outside of Chapman, the pitching has been solid all around.

And Judge is having the sort of season we’ve all been waiting for since he came up from the minors as the franchise face homegrown superstar – and making us all hope they just pay him the thirty billion a year or whatever it takes to keep him out of free agency at season’s end. There is no other homegrown brand-of-the-franchise superstar in Yankee history that left the team. Ever. And think of the roster of people we’re talking about here. They can’t let Judge go.

So here’s hoping the second half of 2022 is as good as the first, and that the Yanks’ ability to win series continues all through the post season. Anything can happen, so I’m enjoying the ride right now.

Movies Worth Seeing: The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022)

One of the stranger, stupider and very enjoyable movies of late is this odd homage to the persona/brand that is Nicolas Cage. Similar to how William Shatner has parlayed self-parody into iconic form, Cage plays “himself” in this action comedy send-up of the sorts of formula plots found in many of Cage’s earlier films.

The plot involves Cage taking a trip to Spain to meet the mysterious billionaire Javi Gutierrez (a wonderful scene stealing Pedro Pascal), who turns out to be Cage’s ultimate fanboy, wanting to make a film with him. Meanwhile, Cage is recruited by the CIA to take down Gutierrez, who actually fronts an international arms dealing crime family who kidnapped an innocent girl and…. I know, I know… you gotta be kidding me. But the whole thing is played for some good laughs, and the satire of Cage’s creative process as he works with and ultimately bonds with Javi as they meta-discuss developing a character driven movie where two men come together to save those close to them…

Well, while evoking much of one of Cage’s best films “Adaptation” without ever directly mentioning it, “Unbearable Weight…” does a lot of the same circular referencing type of stuff, throwing in material from many of Cage’s popcorn action films like Con-Air, The Rock, Gone In 60 Seconds, etc. The most direct parallel to Adaptation is how Cage occasionally argues with his younger self, a mostly cheerleading Raising Arizona-era version of Cage created via the magic of CGI. Adaptation satirized Hollywood formula more effectively and more explicitly than this, but Unbearable… does a wonderful job of keeping things moving along, is very well directed, and has a supporting cast strong enough to keep everything together in what amounts to a two hour version of how Vincent Price actually becomes the movie heroes his ham-actor character plays at the end of “His Kind of Woman.”

Evidently writer/director Tom Gormican got turned down multiple times by Cage in pitching this film, but a personal letter somehow changed Cage’s mind. And unsurprisingly, Cage co-produced it in the end.

If you’re a fan of the Nic Cage As Everyone idea, this is the movie for you.

A Big Book Roundup Finale: Arts & History Edition

The last of the book recommendations/reviews gathers up a bunch of material I’ve read over the last few months here and there, dealing with arts, literature or straight-up history.

Nancy Marie Brown’s The Abacus & The Cross -The Story of the Pope Who Brought The Light Of Science To The Dark Ages examines the life of Gerbert of Aurillac, who became Pope Sylvester II. Gerbert, as a peasant monk, traveled to Muslim Spain in the mid 900s, got exposed to all the ancient knowledge compiled by the Abbasids and others, returned to France to start a school in Reims where he taught all the ancient Greco-Roman classical knowledge he’d learned in astronomy, math and the like (he may have also built astrolabes) and eventually through a myriad journey through the Medieval politics of the day mostly involving the inner workings of the Holy Roman Empire and the Capetian Dynasty of France, became Pope for a brief period. Brown puts forth an interesting thesis on how if Sylvester II and young Otto III of the HRE had lived longer, the schism of the eastern and western churches in 1054 could have been avoided, thereby changing all of European and Middle Eastern history, etc etc. It’s an interesting theory that’s tough to defend but her scholarship on the life of this dude is a fascinating dive into the way the Medieval European world worked, both in terms of the state of education and culture, as well as the politics.

Mark Lamster’s Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the painter Peter Paul Reubens follows similar lines of mixing a cultural examination of its subject (it’s a great straight-up bio of Reubens, discussing his art, the major works, and his great commercial and business success) with another dive into the politics of its era. This time it’s the Wars of Dutch Independence, and the Flemish Reubens serves as the perfect go-between to sneak messages and information between both the Spanish/Hapsburg and Netherlandish sides. They both like him, trust him… and while important powerful people & royalty pose for him, they chat in ways knowing he can pass the messages along. Not sure if he hid any coded messages in the cellulite of the female nudes he pained, but I guess we’d be getting into Da Vinci code territory going down that road.

Thomas Cahill’s Heretics & Heroes: How Renaissance Artists & Reformation Priests Created Our World is another entry in Cahill’s highly readable Hinges of History series. Cahill writes in a relaxed, breezy style, discussing the various figures he puts in the center of the catalyst-actions he sees moving civilization along. Cahill is not hiding that it’s all his opinion when he writes about Vermeer or Luther or Savonarola or anyone, really… so after a while the book becomes akin to listening to a really smart guy just talk about this stuff in a free wheeling manner. I recommend the other entries in this series as well.

Finally, a pair of similar books that are basically entertaining personal polemics, where each author cathartically releases whatever vitriol they have on assorted subjects in art and literature. Roger Kimball’s The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art catalogues academic works by various professors on specific paintings that are radical way-out-there interpretations of the works in question, offering Kimball some truly low-hanging fruit to pick apart. Kimball sticks to articles by various art professors where a predetermined political ideological agenda gets put in place first, and then whatever analysis of the work can be hammered into that structure happens, regardless of any other interpretations or sometimes obvious meanings found in the works. While the book focuses on art, the same argument against the sort of garbage that turns up in far too many humanities research could be applied to numerous other areas. It kept reminding me of my own personal episode with the sort of polemicist crap Kimball rails against, back in an undergrad film class listening to the stupidest analysis of Hitchcock’s Rear Window by a semiotician overly determined to cram as much Freudian symbolism and deconstructionist twaddle into an analysis that purported to argue that Hitchcock intended for it all. I ranted about it then and, probably similar to Kimball’s experience in writing this book, enjoyed a very cathartic exercise of reproducing said rant many years later in my Wagstaff & Meatballs novel, much of which I set at a Brown U reunion.

If you want the English literature version of the Kimball approach, albeit with MUCH more straight out analysis of some great books ranging from Beowulf to Jane Austen, I listened to The Politically Incorrect Guide To English & American Literature by Elizabeth Kantor (audiobook). Good GOD does she hate Margaret Atwood & Handmaid’s Tale, and good GOD does she hate the way that book has supplanted, in her eyes, the greater books by greater authors in the canon, all for pushing the sort of political agenda Kimball also rails against. Handmaid’s Tale turns up as the go-to “why do they teach this crap?” example throughout the book, regardless of what period of lit is being discussed. But the polemics aside, there’s some nice straight-forward what-you-missed-in-lit-class discussions of Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, Chaucer, Dickens, and so forth, but Kantor also offers some very nice discussions of how to read these classics – how to deal with the language, how to approach their context, etc. which is excellent advice for anyone pursuing an interest in great literature, for academic purposes or just for reading great books and knowing them.

I’m in the middle of a major move, which means boxing up TONS of books. I’ll be spending more time boxing books in the next weeks rather than reading them. But once those boxes open, it will be back to the grind again. So, until next time…

A Big Book Roundup Part 3: Movies & Sports Edition

To continue with some quick book reviews/recs, here are a bunch related to various ends of the entertainment world:

Round Up The Usual Suspects by Aljean Harmetz – had this one sitting on my shelf for years and finally got around to reading about all the behind the scenes action in the making of Casablanca, one of the greatest American films ever made. Wonderfully researched & written, with pretty much everything you need to know. Her book on The Wizard Of Oz is next on my shelf and next on my list.

The Searchers: Making of an American Legend by Glen Frankel: A marvelous piece of scholarship not only about the making of the John Ford classic film, but also an exhaustive history of the true story it was based on, that of the Comanche abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker in 1836 Texas. Frankel does a great job with the detailed history of that event, and of her family taking her back against her will after she had married the chief & given birth to the chief who would make peace. The book goes from the history to the story written about it that led to the film, and how the film altered the actual story. This appealed to my interest in history, and also provided enough behind the scenes material about one of my favorite westerns as well.

A pair of gossipy entertainments that go together are Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra by George Jacobs, and Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin. Both books follow the same basic arc – an outsider (Jacobs was Sinatra’s valet, Bushkin was Carson’s business advisor, dubbed “Bombastic Bushkin” in monologue jokes) gets invited into the inner social circle of a huge celebrity and tags along for various adventures with other celebs, drinking, sex, affairs, you name it – often being dragged along and demanded to be part of things by either Sinatra or Carson as they struggle to have friends they can actually trust when they trust very few. And in the end, both men are frozen out for some single event that the celeb can never forgive. Both books have some interesting stories and gossip (Jacobs might win in this regard, some of the throwaway things he says about various celebs are sickly funny an eye opening if true. Who knew Yul Brynner had an affair with Sal Mineo? I’ll never watch The Ten Commandments the same way again), and both are quick reads, to be sure.

More somber and certainly more pious was The Closer by Mariano Rivera, Rivera’s autobio of his life in Panama and his journey to the Yankees, leading to his amazing career as the greatest closer relief pitcher of all time. While a lot of the book gets into the baseball details, the overriding tone is that of Rivera’s enormous religious faith (he originally intended to become a priest) and how his faith interacted with his career. Some of the stories he tells of some of the heartbreaking losses I remember from my own Yankee fandom are discussed in terms of Rivera’s views on God’s overall plans for him in ways that are, quite simply, more sincere, different and beautiful than any other baseball autobio I’ve plowed through. The storyline is very matter of fact, but the big takeaway for me was how the steadiness of the guy on the mound was very much a product of that amazingly strong faith.

No religion to be found in Betting On Myself By Steven Crist, Crist’s autobio of how he journeyed through a journalism career to buying the Daily Racing Form and transforming it into the more modern version it is today. He also discusses his own history of betting the tracks, starting out back in his Harvard Lampoon days going to the Suffolk Downs dog park with fellow Lampooner George Meyer, who’d go on to be one of the big wheels on The Simpsons and clearly the source of Santa’s Little Helper. Crist, the son of film critic Judith Crist, also wrote a book called Exotic Betting, where he delves into all of his methods of pick 6 and pick 4 combos at the track – a wonderfully helpful book to me in figuring out my own betting strategies whenever I handicap the horse races. Crist was one of the best pick 6 players out there (although I’m FAR too cheap to bet all over the board like he did). Betting On Myself focuses more on his myriad journey through the publishing business, and his ups and downs in doing so. Since his theories were so helpful to me improving my own performances at the track, I found his autobio very interesting.

Next Up: Some Art & History

A Big Book Roundup Part 2: The Mysteries Of The Universe Edition

From time to time, I enjoy listening to George Noori’s late night radio program, Coast To Coast AM, which he inherited from Art Bell many years ago. It’ll depend on who the guests are, and Noori has a cast of regulars who turn up on the program frequently. A lot of the show is devoted to UFOs and abductions and bigfoot and numerology and alternate nutritionists and the like, but every now and then he’ll have on someone like theoretical physicist Michio Kaku or people who have researched some historic oddities to the nth degree, and I’ll let it play into the wee hours as I fall asleep.

This was my introduction to Robert Lanza & his theories of Biocentrism when he or some other acolyte of these theories whose name escapes me turned up as a guest one night. I very much enjoyed listening to a pair of audiobooks by Lanza, Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness & The Illusion of Death (the “illusion of death” was the hook for me, after spending a lot of years reading all sorts of material on Buddhist/Hindu ideas on reincarnation and their relation to some concepts in theoretical physics), and The Grand Biocentric Design: How Life Creates Reality. Lanza’s theories can be boiled down to the idea that consciousness is an eternal force that has created our reality, as opposed to the other way around – a universe is created and life evolves, reaching sentient consciousness. While Lanza develops and defends his ideas by discussing ideas based on quantum theory and other scientific concepts, I found his entire approach to be very spiritual – without directly mentioning any specific religion, Lanza’s theories amalgamate numerous concepts and ideas from across major world religions on the nature of reality and our place within it as thinking beings. Whenever he talked about the eternal nature of a universal consciousness, I kept thinking about Charlton Heston coming down from the burning bush in The Ten Commandments and telling Zephora and Joshua how God was “the light of eternal mind.”

So if some off-the-charts genius cosmology professor and Moses are on the same page, who am I to argue?

In any case, it was all fascinating listening, prompting a lot of thought and a sense of wonder. I suppose there are two sides to his consciousness theories as related to “the illusion of death,” since Lanza’s theories very much align with Eastern reincarnation beliefs that our consciousness but not our persona will recycle throughout time (although Lanza goes into fascinating detail about how time itself is a human concept & may not actually exist as we think about it. I’ll have to work that into Phigg & Clyde at some point, I guess.)

Another frequent topic on Noori’s radio show explores theories around ancient civilizations and their technological achievements. Frank Joseph’s Ancient High Tech: The Astonishing Scientific Achievements of Early Civilizations leaves out alien theories and explores in wonderful detail the actual scientific achievements of ancient civilzations across the globe, from compelling evidence of engineering, architecture, use of electric batteries, naviagation, and so forth. While Joseph argues some ideas that are not widely accepted (to put it mildly) by scientific and historic consensus as stated by experts (although that world has not looked very good in recent times, eh?), most of his scholarship is factual history and discoveries sitting in various museums worldwide. Much like with Lanza, listening to this book got me thinking a lot and wondering a lot, so it did the trick. And since I’ve always loved the theory that the Great Pyramid is not a tomb but instead is actually an ancient version of a Tesla Tower (someone tell Moses), hearing Joseph’s extensive analysis and defense of this idea was very entertaining.

Finally there was Synchronicity, Science, and Soulmaking: Understanding Jungian Synchronicity Through Physics, Buddhism, and Philosophy (audiobook) by Victor Mansfield, the late Colgate U. professor of physics and astronomy who spent more time teaching concepts of Tibetan Buddhism, and this book on Jungian synchronicities and their relation to both Buddhist ideas and theoretical physics was an uneven but mostly interesting listen. Mansfield provides assorted anecdotes from his students describing synchronistic events from their own lives, while offering his own analysis of the concepts related to an interwoven collective consciousness with Middle-way Buddhist ideas and concepts from quantum mechanics. Lanza’s work focuses on very similar ideas, so grouping them together was a good way to get my mind in the right mode to work on the next Wagstaff book.

Deep stuff…. this must mean the next installment of book reviews will be about trivial nonsense, so stay tuned!

A Big Book Roundup Part 1: Shakespeare Edition

Since I’m too lazy to write long individual reviews of a bunch of books I’ve gone through recently, I thought instead to compile them into a series of short blurbs like I did with some movies earlier. A bunch of these are audio books, since it makes my inevitable two hours daily in my car more worthwhile.

I don’t drive anywhere, I just sit in my car and listen to books. Just doing my part to SAVE THE PLANET.

Anyway – I’m always ready to go back in on the Shakespeare authorship conspiracy theory every now and then, and I can recommend a bunch of interesting books in this general area, as well as a couple I threw in there that analyze Shakespeare’s works in interesting ways.

Let’s start with Who Wrote Shakespeare? By John Mitchell, which evidently is sports talk guy Dan Patrick’s favorite book. Mitchell goes through a nice rundown of all the major authorship theories (Bacon, Marlowe, Oxford) as well as some others, and mostly winds up in the Oxford camp. His history of each candidate is readable and interesting, and makes a nice intro for people beginning to look into some of these theories.

If you want a well argued pro-Stratford-man-Shakespeare counterpoint, check out Contested Will by James Shapiro (audiobook), a Columbia prof of English lit who offers a wonderfully detailed history of how the authorship controversies developed, first in the nineteenth century with the Francis Bacon theories, and later with Oxford, Marlowe and others. But what really makes Shapiro’s book worth reading is how well he discusses the world of English theater and the nature of the professional writing life in Elizabethan times, and how a lot of the supposed illogical factoids on Shakespeare himself actually fit in well with how many of his contemporaries worked, published, earned money and the like. Shapiro must reject a lot of the idea that “all writing is autobiography” that drives many of the alternative author theories in order to arrive at his own arguments for Shakespeare himself, and even though I’m a doubter that Shakespeare wrote the material himself, I think Shapiro’s arguments describing the realities of Elizabethan playwright life are very compelling evidence.

Another book pursues a bona-fide mystery in the Shakespeare biography – what happened to his personal library? He must have had a large number of reference books for the material he wrote, especially since so much of it was based on earlier histories or classical plays. No evidence of a Shakespeare library exists anywhere, and he left no books to anyone in his will. Hmmm. So in Stuart Kells’ Shakespeare’s Library, (audiobook) Kells explores the history of the people who went searching for clues as to what happened to all those books, or whose books he may have actually used in his works (a patron? who knows) but this, again, winds up interweaving with the authorship question since the lack of this library casts doubt on Shakespeare as the author himself. Kells mostly writes about associates of his that follow the Henry Neville authorship theory (very well outlined in The Truth Will Out by Brenda James), but always comes back to the idea of hunting down evidence of the books themselves.

I liked Claire Asquith’s Shadowplay (an argument that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathizer, evidence in his work, etc.), so I checked out her later book Shakespeare & The Resistance, (audiobook) where she offers a wonderfully detailed analysis of his early successful poems “Venus & Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece,” arguing that both poems are thinly disguised attacks on Henry VIII’s dissolution of church property & Elizabeth’s illegitimate reign over England. Asquith concludes her book with a nice description of the Essex Rebellion, arguing that Shakespeare was a supporter of the attempt to “Richard II” Elizabeth, basically. Not sure if I agree with her, but fascinating stuff.

I also enjoyed Stephen Greenblatt’s Tyrant: Shakespeare & Politics, (audiobook) where the lit prof author of Will In The World organizes an intersting analysis of many Shakespeare plays (mostly histories and tragedies) by categorizing the types of characters that surround tyrannical figures – bad kings, bad emperors, bad Greco-Roman main characters, etc. The only place I thought it broke down was in his final chapter on “Coriolanus” where the book becomes more along the lines of Greenblatt & Politics rather than Shakespeare. Greenblatt tries repeatedly to compare Coriolanus to Trump and the section sounds like a tangential rant during a college lecture of some tenured prof venting his own politics in front of passive undergrads. The Coriolanus-as-tyrant arguments are certainly sound, but they can be pinned to practically any American or foreign politico of your choice if you cherry pick whatever you don’t like about them. And that ought to be the point, since it was certainly Shakespeare’s. Since it came at the end of the listen, it took something away from the earlier chapters where Greenblatt sticks to the texts themselves and offers a very nice overall analysis of the way political commentary relating to Elizabethan and Jacobean times turns up in Shakespeare’s plays.

For this installment, I’ll throw in a tangentially related book I also listened to, A Hidden History of the Tower of London by John Paul Davis, (audiobook) an exhaustively detailed history of the Tower, its construction and renovations/additions, and every. single. major. execution. EVER! inside its walls. After a while, I wondered how there could be any Brit nobility left since all they did was kill each other, chopping heads off and good ol’ drawing and quartering. I guess that’s what happens when you have to wait hundreds of years for Jamie Oliver to come along and teach you how to cook.

Next up – books in other categories.

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